HEDGEHOGS in rural areas are in severe decline, with the recent 'State of Britain’s Hedgehogs' report showing numbers plummeting by half since the millennium.

Now, the two charities behind that report, the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, have published a guide offering advice to the farming community and landowners on how they can help hedgehogs and other wildlife to thrive.

The new guide shows how to make rural land more hedgehog-friendly, without compromising day-to-day work, including advice on hedgerow management, field margins, field sizes, ploughing regimes and the usefulness of scrub areas.

The guide also contains information about the financial incentives offered by government stewardship schemes for land managers that adopt some of the suggested techniques.

Hedgehog Street's Emily Wilson said: “From the recent State of Britain’s Hedgehogs report we know rural hedgehogs in particular are in real trouble. The reasons for their decline are complex, but the main contributing factors relate to the amount and quality of habitat available in the rural landscape, which in turn impacts the availability of invertebrate prey and nesting places.

"Hedgehogs, like other creatures, rely on hedgerows and field margins, so with less of both, and with many hedges in poor condition, hedgehogs have fewer safe places to roam. Badgers – competitors for the same food sources and the main natural predators of hedgehogs – may also be a factor in areas where hedgehogs have fewer safe places to take refuge," she added.

“We know there are many farmers across the UK already doing fantastic work by farming their land in a sensitive manner in a bid to help hedgehogs, but we really need to engage with more farmers if we’re to make a difference to rural hedgehog numbers. We hope this guide will provide the guidance needed to help hedgehogs and other wildlife in rural areas.”

To obtain a free copy of this guide, contact hedgehog@ptes.org or download a PDF online at: www.hedgehogstreet.org/farmersadvice.